German airline Lufthansa is not banning Apple’s AirTags and similar tracking tags from checked luggage, the company said Wednesday.
“The German Aviation Authorities (Luftfahrtbundesamt) confirmed today, that they share our risk assessment, that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked luggage do not pose a safety risk,” a Lufthansa representative told Cult of Mac in an email Wednesday. “With that, these devices are allowed on Lufthansa flights.”
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Lufthansa: No AirTag ban
Apple’s tiny Bluetooth trackers prove popular with travelers, since an AirTag chucked into a suitcase provides real-time info on the luggage’s location. Simply attaching a $29 AirTag to a checked bag can give a flyer instant assurance that the luggage didn’t get lost during a flight. That’s especially helpful given the chaotic nature of air travel in recent months.
Rumors of Lufthansa’s AirTag ban began flying (forgive the pun) after reports in German media and a series of conflicting tweets from the airline in the past few days. Major publications, including The New York Times, picked up the story.
Lufthansa initially told Cult of Mac that the airline did not think AirTags posed a threat to aviation. However, it indicated that aviation authorities would make the final determination on what types of devices travelers could check in their baggage.
“The Lufthansa Group has conducted its own risk assessment with the result that tracking devices with very low battery and transmission power in checked luggage do not pose a safety risk,” the company said. “We have never issued a ban on devices like that. It is on the authorities to adapt regulations that right now limit the use of these devices for airline passengers in checked luggage. We are in close contact with the respective institutions to find a solution as quickly as possible.”
According to ICAO guidelines, baggage trackers are subject to the dangerous goods regulations. Furthermore, due to their transmission function, the trackers must be deactivated during the flight if they are in checked baggage and cannot be used as a result. /Ana
— Lufthansa (@lufthansa) October 9, 2022
Cult of Mac asked the International Civil Aviation Organization, the organization cited by Lufthansa in a Sunday tweet, for more information on the matter. We received this reply:
“Although ICAO is a standard setting body, under the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation the regulation of air transport remains a sovereign state responsibility,” wrote communications officer William Raillant-Clark in an email. “Governments enhance the safety of the global flight network as a whole by agreeing on common standards through ICAO, which they then transpose into their national regulatory frameworks. As such, ICAO is not in a position to comment on the implementation or interpretation of ICAO specifications by states or by the operators they regulate.”
Raillant-Clark also said:
The broad principles governing the international transport of dangerous goods by air are contained in Annex 18 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation —The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air.
The ICAO Technical Instructions For The Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (Doc 9284) amplify the basic provisions of Annex 18 and contain all the detailed instructions necessary for the safe international transport of dangerous goods by air.
I would like to draw your attention to the attached excerpt from this Document.
Here’s the document that outlines the ICAO’s specifications:
As you can see, the guidelines get incredibly specific. However, the CR2032 batteries used in AirTags seem to meet the requirements. (However, restriction C seems poorly worded, and might be the cause of the confusion.)
What caused the confusion over AirTag safety for airlines?
U.S. regulators say AirTags and other trackers that use Bluetooth Low Energy and run on small, coin-style batteries do not interfere with airplanes’ communications equipment. Flyers can safely carry them on board or place them in checked bags.
So why the hubbub over Lufthansa and the supposed AirTag ban? Frequent-flyer news site The Points Guy pointed to the wording of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s rules as the source of the confusion.
“The group’s guidance on the topic can be strictly interpreted to mean that devices like AirTags should be banned, even though their batteries contain only small amounts of lithium,” the publication wrote.
Lufthansa, headquartered in Cologne, operates multiple subsidiaries including Air Dolomite and Swiss International Air Lines. According to Wikipedia, the Lufthansa group is Europe’s second-largest air carrier in terms of passengers.
The New York Times said Lufthansa seemed to be alone with regard to its initial statement about banning AirTags from luggage.
“It does not appear that any other airlines are requiring passengers to turn off the trackers, which have become popular as a way to find lost baggage,”The New York Times wrote Wednesday. “Lufthansa found itself in the middle of the issue when reports surfaced in the German news media that the devices were prohibited.”
In a statement, Apple told The Times that AirTags are “compliant with international airline travel safety regulations for carry-on and checked baggage.”
AirTag: The frequent flyer’s best friend
When traveling, AirTags prove invaluable for keeping a keen eye on luggage’s location. Simply tossing car keys with an AirTag on the keychain into a bag, or attaching an AirTag in a case to a piece of luggage, gives you real-time information on where your stuff is. (We sell a variety of AirTag cases in the Cult of Mac Store.)
Naturally, you can see where your luggage is using the Find My app. (It’s fun watching it make its way from the belly of an airplane to the baggage carousel.) But an AirTag also can alert you if your bag didn’t make the flight with you. And if, god forbid, the baggage handlers screw the pooch, the tiny tracker — and Apple’s extensive Find My network — can help track down your lost luggage.
And, of course, an AirTag also proves useful for keeping track of your gear wherever you go, not just on planes. For $29, buying an AirTag becomes a great investment that provides a lot of peace of mind.